Organizations mentioned in the correspondence

Governmental Institution
Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty
The Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, also known as the Board of the Admiralty, were a group of officers concerned with the affairs of the Royal Navy. King Edward VI commissioned a group of officers of Marine Causes in 1546 under the Lord High Admiral. They were responsible for materials, non-combatant personnel, warrant officers and ratings, and the civil administration of the Navy.1
On the death of the Duke of Buckingham in 1628, the acting Lord High Admiral in the late-16th century, his office was put into commission. It was then that six Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty were appointed to execute his office jointly. This varied throughout the years as occasionally the position of Lord High Admiral was revived. It was not until 1708 that the Board of Admiralty became the primary and normal instrument for governing the Navy.2
This Naval Board was abolished in 1832, influencing the Board of Admiralty to be redesigned. It then consisted of a particular group of people: a First Lord, four naval lords (known from 1904 as Sea Lords), and a Civil Lord with a parliamentary and permanent secretary. Each Sea Lord had specific responsibilities such as: naval strategy, mobilization, medical departments, transport, and material departments.3
The Board of Admiralty remained unchanged until 1 April 1964 when they changed its name to the “Admiralty Board of the Defence Council of the Ministry of Defence.”4
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Assay Office
Assay Offices were originally founded to be responsible for the testing of the quality of gold, silver, and platinum; as well as to regulate the trade of the goldsmith. The first Assay Office in the United Kingdom was established in London around 1300.1
In British Columbia, the Assay Office was proposed as a measure to remedy the lack of currency in the colony. It was believed that this office would help to authenticate gold ingots and to regulate the export of gold from Canada into the United States.2 The colony of British Columbia saw that the advantages of an Assay Office would be incalculable as it would allow for gold to remain circulating in the country and would enable vendors and purchasers of gold to receive a fair price.3
Prior to establishment in the 1860s, some colonists felt that an assay office was a public inconvenience and a detriment to the commercial interests of the colony. However, the view that the office would allow anyone to learn the true value of the gold in their possession overruled these dissatisfactory opinions.4
  • 1. Current and Historic Assay Offices, Assay Office: Birmingham.
  • 2. R. L. Reid, The Assay Office and the proposed Mint at New Westminster: a chapter in the history of the Fraser River mines, (Charles F. Banfield: Victoria, 1926), p.28.
  • 3. Ibid., 28, 30.
  • 4. Douglas to Lytton, 8 April 1859, CO 60/4, 5439, p.259.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Board of Trade
The Board of Trade, also known as the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, was a governmental advisory board, first established by William III in May 1696. The board's responsibility focused on the examination of colonial legislation, the disallowance of laws that conflicted with imperial trade policies, the nomination of governors and other high officials, and the recommendation of laws that affect the colonies to Parliament.1
After Britain lost their American colonies, the original Board of Trade was abolished in 1782. However there soon grew a need to regulate trade between Britain and its remaining colonies, as well as with France. This need led to the establishment of a new “Committee of Council on Trade and Plantations” by William Pitt in 1784.2
The name Board of Trade was associated with the new committee since 1786, but the title was not officially adopted until 1861. The board's original concern was based on plantations and colonial law; but the industrial revolution influenced a change in focus to domestic and executive affairs such as railways, merchant shipping, and joint-stock companies.3
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the board's wide range of work was narrowed when certain responsibilities were transferred to other areas in the government. For instance, in 1919 the responsibility of fisheries was transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture.4
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Colonial Office
Throughout its imperial history, the British empire had various departments administering the colonies. When the War and Colonial Office was divided into two in 1854, the Colonial Office was created with the specific mandate to oversee colonial affairs. The Office was headed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and ran by a core staff of Under Secretaries, clerks, registrar, and librarian. While the Secretary of State was responsible for all the decisions on the Office's formal communications, the Senior Clerk coordinated the routine of processing despatches, who minuted the correspondences, suggested answers and/or courses of handling the subjects, and prepared drafts of replies. The Colonial Office staff minutes are interesting to read in many regards. They are more than the accustomed bureaucratic records. There are gossips, rants, and sarcastic comments on the corresponding governors. The minutes capture the high-ranking officers' personalities as much as their interest (disinterest) in colonial affairs. The Colonial Office was merged into the Commonwealth Office in 1966, which was consequently amalgamated with the Foreign Office to form the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968.1
  • 1. Nancy Brown Foulds, Colonial Office, The Canadian Encyclopedia ; The Colonial Despatches, Colonial Office staff and consultants, The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, ed., James Hendrickson, (Victoria BC: University of Victoria).
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Colonial Treasury
The Colonial Treasury handled colonial revenue, mostly derived from land sales and gold mining permits.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Emigration Office
The Colonial Land and Emigration Commission was established in 1840. A board of commissioners was appointed to manage the sales of Crown lands in British colonies and regulate emigration from the UK to the colonies. The commissioners had the power to use the proceeds from land sales to defray the expense of emigration. They corresponded with colonial governors indirectly through the Colonial Secretary (head of the Colonial Office). They also supervised the emigration officers stationed in British colonies. The first board rented a private house for their office space on Park Street, Westminster, London.1
It became Emigration Commission in 1856 after the imperial government had granted the rights of administering Crown lands to the colonial governments.2 In 1878, the Commission was replaced with Emigration Department set up in the Colonial Office.3
  • 1. Fred H. Hitchins, The Colonial Land and Emigration Commission, (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931), 42-45, 59, 159.
  • 2. Ibid., 310.
  • 3. Ibid., 94.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Foreign Office
The Foreign Office was formed in 1782 to oversee Britain's foreign affairs, which had previously been co-administered by the Southern and Northern Departments of the Secretary of State. In addition to foreign affairs, the Foreign Office was also responsible for British protectorates like Cephalonia.1
As the territory of the British empire shifted, the responsibility boundaries between the Foreign and Colonial Offices were not always clear. As regards HBC Governor J. H. Pelly's inquiry about the Oregon Territory treaty,2 Benjamin Hawes suggested to Lord Grey that the issue should be forwarded to the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office was merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1968.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Home Office
The Home Office was founded in 1782 as a foundational part of the security and economic prosperity of the United Kingdom. The office came into existence in order to reorganize the business undertaken by the Secretaries of State, creating the “Home Secretaries.”1
In March 1782, the Home Office consisted of a Secretary of State, two Under Secretaries, a Chief Clerk and ten other Clerks. By May 1782, the Home Office took on more responsibilities such as reporting on the acts of colonial legislatures.2 In September 1793, the Home Office took over the duty of keeping the criminal register. This continued into the 1800s when Henry Bright wrote to the Home Office to suggest Vancouver Island as an ideal place to establish a convict colony.3 The office's tasks increased in the mid-nineteenth century when it took on the business relating to immigration in 1836 and turnpike roads and highways in 1853.4
The Home Office is now the lead government department for immigration, passports, drug control, crime, fire, counter-terrorism, and the police.5
  • 1. Home Office: About Us, GOV: UK; Introduction, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 5, Home Office Officials, 1782-1870, ed. J. C. Sainty, (London, 1975), p.1-10.
  • 2. Introduction, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain.
  • 3. Waddington to Merivale, 16 Marcch 1853, CO 305/4, 3432, p.205.
  • 4. Introduction, in Office-Holders in Modern Britain.
  • 5. Home Office: About Us.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Parliament oversaw the implementation of legislations in colonies. Legislative issues relating to colonies were always debated in Parliament; few laws could be enacted without Parliament's endorsement. Clerks of the House of Commons communicated Parliament's inquiries, requests and decisions to the Colonial Office.1 In this despatch, J. H. Ley requested the Colonial Office to provide the House of Commons with a Copy of Correspondence between the Chairman of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the Secretary of State for the Colonies, relative to the Colonization of Vancouver's Island.2
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Land Board
The Land Board advised colonies and the Colonial Office on the state of laws regarding the disposal of public lands in the colonies. This despatch refers to the land disposal process in British Columbia.1
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Law Officers
The Law Officers of the Crown is a legal position in Britain which can be dated back to the early 1300s. From the middle of this century, the officers were responsible for submitting accounts of the “King's rent” and other incomes such as salaries, defence, and charities to the English Exchequer.1
The Officers' position and responsibilities evolved over time, becoming more directly involved in legal authorities. Some Officers held a seat in the House of Commons and became personal lawyers to the other members of the House.2 Law Officers of the Crown were regularly consulted on legal questions which concerned Britain's colonies or the outskirts of the British Empire. In this despatch, the Officers were consulted on matters of trading establishments in relation to the Hudson's Bay Company.3
The role of Law Officer also included matters of land, manorial possessions, and other properties. This despatch depicts a statement by the Law Officers concerning the Hudson's Bay Company land acquisition on Vancouver Island.4
The position of Law Officers of the Crown is appointed by royal warrant and today the officers are known as “Receiver General.” Although the office still exists today, many of the activities and responsibilities of the Officers have been diminished in the 20th century.5
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Municipal Council of New Westminster
The Municipal Council of New Westminster was established by the “New Westminster Municipal Council Act of 1860,” the act provided the city with a measure of self-government. By the act of 1860, the council was permitted to be created by the city of New Westminster and to define the scope of its powers and responsibilities. The first session of the council was held in Sapperton in the mid-1860s.1
The act outlined guidelines for the council such as the number of councillors permitted, as well that the Mayor could only be elected by voter, not by the councillors themselves. The act also allowed the council to elect a Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, and Collector.2 Known members of the Municipal Council of New Westminster included Ebenezer Brown, W. R. Sommer, Henry Holbrook, and A. H. Manson.3
The council's responsibilities included roads, regulation of slaughter-houses, fire prevention, relief of the poor, public morals, police, licensing, and cemeteries. The council sustained its responsibilities through tax collections, establishing fees for permits, and the selling of city land.4
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Offices of the Crown Agents for the Colonies
The Crown Agents acted as the British commercial and financial agent for the Crown colonies; since the establishment of the office in 1831 the agents worked to accelerate self-sufficiency, as well as prosperity for their communities.1
Some of the responsibilities of the Crown Agents were to supply all non-locally run stores, manage colonial investments, and other. With the arrival of the railways, other mass developments, and the opening of trade in large areas of the world, the agents played a greater role in supervising the constructions of railways as well as the management of Colonial Loans on the London Stock Market.2 The Crown Agents' involvement in the community increased in the Victorian and Edwardian periods with the further responsibilities of shipping, recruitment, finance, the administration of Widows and Orphans schemes, and pension payments. Much of the work accomplished by the Crown Agents went unnoticed and they never made the headlines.3
The Crown Agents continue their work to this day. They now look at technologies which will help accelerate the pace of change. Again continuing their search to aid their communities, businesses, institutions, and countries.4
Mentions of this organization in the documents
General Post Office
Charles II established the General Post Office in 1660. A year after its formation, the first postage date stamp was used and the office appointed its first overseer: Henry Bishop.1 It was not until 1793, over 100 years later, that uniformed postmen first took to the street. In 1829, the first-purpose-built mail facility was put into operation at St. Martin's Le Grand EC2.2
Sir Rowland Hill's invention of the adhesive postage stamp in 1837 was a key moment for the GPO, as it aided in the creation of the Penny Black Stamp three years later. This stamp enabled sending posts anywhere in the world, such as the one seen from an Ordinance by Musgrave who notes that all documents of title shall be transmitted by the Magistrate, through the GPO.3 The Penny Black Stamp also led to the introduction of the Post Office pillar box in 1852.
In 1868, the military became linked to the GPO through the 49th Middlesex Rifle Volunteer Corps, (known as the “Post Office Rifles”), which consisted of GPO employees.4 This corps played a large role during the First World War. At the outbreak of war in 1914, the GPO employed 250,000 people, a quarter of which were enlisted in the army. There were also 35,000 women who were employed in “temporary positions” throughout WWI.5 The GPO played a pivotal role in maintaining communications throughout the war.
The GPO's postal distribution efficiency increased in 1974 with the creation of postal codes. Today the GPO is known at the Post Office Ltd.6
  • 1. A short history of the Post Office, The History Press.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.; A. Musgrave, The Land Registry Ordinance, (Government Printing Office: Victoria, BC, 1870), p.5.
  • 4. A short history of the Post Office.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Ibid.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Privy Council
The Privy Council is, historically, the British sovereign's private council and dates back to the earliest days of the monarchy, when the council consisted of people appointed directly by the King or Queen to advise on matters of the state.1
The council descended from the “Curia Regis” which comprised the king's tenants in chief, household officials, and other advisers, who formed all the functions of the government. In the early to mid-seventeenth century the council system was swept away but not formally abolished; Charles II reinstated/revived the system not long after.2
In 1701, the “Act of Settlement” attempted to return the Privy Council to its former power, by attempting to instate regulations whereby all resolutions shall be signed by the Privy Council; however this attempt proved to be futile. After the accession of George I in 1714, the council became a purely formal body, meeting to transact formal business. It did, however, keep some of its power by continuing to aid the monarch and the Governor General by providing advice. It also functioned from 1839 to 1949 as the highest court of appeal for Canada.3
Mentions of this organization in the documents
Registrar General
The Registrar General was responsible for the main registration of births, deaths, and marriages in the colony of British Columbia.1 The Registrar General of British Columbia was established under the “British Columbia Registry Act, 1861.” The Registrar General also had the duty to record in books…the record of pre-emption claims, the record of mortgages, the record or wills.2
  • 1. Seymour to Grenville, 11 August 1868, CO 60/33, 11062, p.248.; A. Musgrave, The Land Registry Ordinance, (Government Printing Office: Victoria, BC, 1870), p.1.
  • 2. Musgrave, The Land Registry Ordinance, p.4.
Mentions of this organization in the documents
The Treasury, also referred to as the Exchequer, is a government department responsible for receiving and disbursing the public revenue. Henry I created the Exchequer as a distinct government agency in the twelfth century.1 However, the Treasury which became a part of the Exchequer, dated back to before the Norman conquests of 1066.2
Originally, the Exchequer addressed financial matters and judicial business. Eventually, the Exchequer split into two entities in the late eighteenth century. The lower Exchequer, which became the Treasury, and the upper Exchequer which became the judiciary. In the nineteenth century a series of parliamentary acts took away many of the lower Exchequer's departments, leaving only its name. The Exchequer remains the “unofficial” name of the Treasury in Britain.3
Mentions of this organization in the documents
War Office
The War Office, originally known as the Secretary of War's office, is directly responsible for the Army. The original and first holder of the position was killed in battle against the Dutch in 1666. After this incident, the office did not have a significant role in government and was known as not being a big spending Department.1
However, throughout the years, the office became increasingly important for political control of the Army. The War Office was not the only Government Department responsible in this area, by 1815 there were fifteen other departments serving this same function. This was soon deemed inefficient and by 1854 the War Office was set-up to take full control of both the political and financial areas of the Army.2
Although the office had undergone changes, it was increasingly looked-down upon. Florence Nightingale, who had experienced the Crimean War, once referred to the War Office as a very slow office, an enormously expensive office, a not very efficient office.3
The office again fully reformed in 1904 and a new building was established for it at Whitehall where the War Office exists today. The most notable Secretaries of State for War after the new reform have been Lloyd George (1916) and Sir Winston Churchill (1919-1921).4
Mentions of this organization in the documents